Christian vet who beheaded satanic statue in Iowa statehouse seeks dismissal of hate crime charge, says Satanic Temple isn't a real religion

Attorney Sara Pasquale for Michael Cassidy wrote that the "violation of individual rights" enhancement in the case is inapplicable as well as unconstitutional

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

The Christian veteran charged in the beheading of a Satanic statue placed in the Iowa Capitol is seeking to have the hate crime charge against him removed because the Satanic Temple group is not considered a relgion. 

In a Friday court filing, attorney Sara Pasquale for Michael Cassidy wrote that the "violation of individual rights" enhancement in the case is inapplicable as well as unconstitutional, according to the Des Moines Register.

Pasquale wrote that the law regarding crimes motivated by "the person's (victim's) race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation, sex, sexual orientation, age, or disability" was not applicable in Cassidy’s case, as the display was owned by the Satanic Temple and is a legal entity, not an individual that can have a race, sex, disability, or practice a religion.

"It could never be said, save in Wonderland, that Best Buy is Buddhist," Pasquale wrote.

Pasquale noted that the Satanic Temple is not a religion for the purposes of the statute, as a religion entails "a system of faith and worship," and the Satanic Temple has specifically said they don’t have "a belief in a personal Satan. She also noted comments made by a temple leader in which it was a "common misconception" that "the Satanic Temple is a theistic religion that worships Satan as an entity."

"(The Temple's) own words establish that it is not a religion within the ordinary meaning of religion, as they have no faith, do not worship, and reject the supernatural," Pasquale wrote. "That they call themselves a religion simply does not make it so."

Even if it is found that the law is applicable, Pasquale wrote that it would still violate free speech as outlined in the Iowa and US Constitutions.

"Because (the hate crime law) in this case seeks to punish Cassidy’s thoughts, it cannot withstand constitutional muster as it violates the First Amendment which protects 'the freedom to think,'" she wrote.

The statue of the pagan idol Baphomet was erected in the capital in December, with Cassidy beheading it on December 14. It was allowed to be displayed under a policy granting religious groups space in the building for holiday season displays.

My conscience is held captive to the word of God, not to bureaucratic decree. And so I acted," Cassidy said at the time. As of Tuesday, a GiveSendGo fundraiser for Cassidy’s legal fees has raised over $130,000.

The case is scheduled to go to trial in May.

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